Traveling with Kids: 10 Tips for Any Road Trip


I love traveling with kids because I simply love to travel.  Of course, I love to travel with my husband, and I love to travel with my girlfriends.    I think leaving home and exploring a new place with someone I love it super exciting. Even if those people are little versions of myself.

It’s not always easy. Even traveling with other adults is hard. (I may have had one or more meltdowns on my girls’ trips)  But traveling with kids takes the difficulty factor to the next level. 

I try to mentally prepare myself when we are taking a family trip.  Usually the kids rise to the occasion, but it never hurts to have a perspective or a plan in your back pocket. We’ve traveled with our kids to Niagara Falls, Indiana, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and all over the state of Minnesota. We’ve also traveled internationally with our kids.  It’s completely doable, and I have some tips to help you before you even get on the road.


traveling family in new york state

Tips for Traveling with Kids

  1. Prepare yourself for everything to take extra time.
  2. Set high expectations when traveling with kids, and show them a lot of grace.
  3. Pack special traveling activities for the care and/or airplane.
  4. Make the journey a part of the whole experience.
  5. When traveling with kids, be honest about your feelings and be as positive as you can be.
  6. Devise a plan for snacks.
  7. Drink water.
  8. Go through the trip’s itinerary together when traveling with kids.
  9. Record at least one memory from the day each evening.
  10. Keep in mind that the trip doesn’t need to be expensive or epic to be memorable.

Old street car with boy in front

Prepare yourself for everything to take extra time.

This may seem obvious.  Of course, when you add kids to the equation, everything takes extra time whether its meal time or bedtime or snack time or play time.

For some reason, when you add kids to a trip though, we forget to factor in their needs.  We make plans for the road trip to be 4 hours when with kids, you may have to factor in two pit-stops for the bathroom and one for snacks.  And then, when you are taking your bathroom break, something in the convenience store or rest stop catches their attention.  It’s not just in and out and on the road.  It’s in, wander, observe, touch, point, out to the car, buckle up, cry because puppy is being squashed, pass out snacks, readjust, wipe hands, back out of the parking lot, start to make our way,  pull over to find dropped cheerio, and off we go.

Make your goal when to arrive at a destination and then add an extra two hours to it. Just to be on the safe side.

silly guitar player to entertain on a trip

Set high expectations when traveling with kids, and show them a lot of grace.

Traveling should not mean our children are allowed to become monsters.  Expect them to rise to the occasion, and hold them to high standards.  Know, though, that the change of routine/schedule will be tough at times.  Give yourself grace.  And also to the others in the car.

The best part of road trips  (or a long plane ride) is always the very beginning.  Anticipating the trip with the family draws everyone closer together.  Being excited with your kids is fun.

After traveling with kids for more than three hours, everyone gets a little tired of each other.

backpack packed with road trip supplies

Pack special traveling activities for the care and/or airplane.

Our go-to traveling activities are audio books and the kids’ kindles.  We told them at the beginning of the summer that they would not be able to play their kindles unless we were on a road trip.

This statement led to the questions, “What defines a road trip?”

We determined that if we were driving for more than 3 hours somewhere, they could use their Kindles.

I will tell you our kids were super excited to drive 10 hours to the Black Hills because they couldn’t wait to use their Kindles.

I also pick up some audio books for the car.  Nice long ones that we can use for the trip or a couple of shorter ones to fill the time.

But you can do this with pretty much anything.  Pull aside some toys and claim them for road trips only.  After a while, your kids may even forget about them and be thrilled when you pull them out for the trip.

Road Trip

Make the journey a part of the whole experience.

Going along with the last point, help your kids know that vacation starts the moment you leave your house.  Get something fun to eat or have donuts in the car as you pull away from the house.  The vacation is more than just the destination.  The vacation is also the journey to the destination.

Think about epic stories like The Hobbit.  Over half of the book is about Bilbo’s journey. The journey gives us a chance to really get to know him and see how he makes decisions.

Edinburgh

A Scottish Garden Fairy Tree

When traveling with kids, be honest about your feelings and be as positive as you can be.

As the adult, sometimes I think I need to power through and ignore my feelings.  Except that is absolutely not true.  Kids need to know that we have feelings too.  When circumstances arise that make it impossible to do what we are looking forward to, we can let our people know that we are disappointed.  We also need to be an adult and not have a temper tantrum.  And sometimes that’s the most positive we can be–simply by not having a tantrum.

pretzels and crackers for road trip

Devise a plan for snacks.

This is just basic practicality.  Are you going to pack snacks for your kids and yourselves?  Is one of planned pit-stops a special place where you can get a world-famous malt?  Do you want to have healthy snacks?  Do you need to have some chocolate?

Need some ideas?  We found this list from Traveling Mama to be extremely helpful.

Snacks (food in general) cover over a multitude of sins with kids, so make sure you have a solid Snack Plan.

Farview Park Drinking Fountain

Farview Park Drinking Fountain

Drink Water.

Yes, drinking water on a road trip traveling with kids does, in fact, require more stops.  But see Tip #1.  If you plan for things to take longer, you can account for the drinking of water.

And this tip from Always An Adventure is perfect for everyone.

Do not dehydrate yourself or your kids for the sake of a faster drive time or avoidance of the airplane bathroom. It’s not worth it in anyway.  Everyone will feel much better and stay healthier if you eat and drink as your should.

nine mile creek regional trail

Image courtesy of Three Rivers Parks

Go through the trip’s itinerary together when traveling with kids.

Of all the traveling tips, this tip maybe should have been closer to the beginning of the list, but seriously you can do this before the trip and/or during the trip.  You can pull out a map or pictures of the places you are going to get the kids excited.

Or you can tell them a story each day of what you are hoping with happen.  Invite them into behind-the-scenes of the plan for the day.  Being a part of the planning, even if it’s simply knowing what your goal for the day is, gives the whole family a chance to buy in to the trip.

If you  have some surprises for your kids, I totally get that.  So be vague.  “Today, we want to drive for 2 hours.”

reading a book on camper bed

Record at least one memory from the day each evening.

You’re going to hate me for this one. Each night you will grumble about this, I guarantee it.  But when you go home, you will be so glad you did it.

And you don’t have to write it down.  You can record your kids’ quotes each night on your phone.  Each kid each night or one kid every night of your trip.

I personally like writing things down, and for me that’s the easiest.  But recording the kids telling their stories would be amazing!  I found this post in my search for travel journals, and I thought you would find it helpful.  There are some AMAZING ideas.

little girl traveling and pausing under a tree to grin at camera

Keep in mind that the trip doesn’t need to be expensive or epic to be memorable.

My favorite family vacation memories were created in a matter of days.  Apparently (I don’t remember this), our vacations were pretty short.  And I still remember them and think back on them fondly.  If your vacation is visiting Grandma and Grandpa–something you may do throughout the year but that’s what you can afford–call it vacation, and take a different route stopping to see things or eat things or do things you normally wouldn’t.  Stop halfway to your destination, go swimming at the local swimming hole, and have a picnic.

You don’t even have to go anywhere but your backyard. Pitch a tent in your backyard.  Then, go to your local park for the day.  Come back to your tent, and have a bonfire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.


St. Andrews, Oban, Oxford road trip through Scotland

Our family has always enjoyed planning for a trip and waiting in anticipation for it.  Maybe some of us like it better than others.  We do include some surprises, but we also start making the trip plan months ahead of time to get excited together.

What trip tips am I missing?  How do you make road trips with kids successful?  How do you make flights a positive experience with kids? We would love to hear from you.  Please let us know so we can learn from you!


Traveling with Kids? Tips and trips to consider:

Renting an RV

Minnesota Day and Road Trips

Overseas Trips: Thailand

Overseas Trips: UK

 

 

 


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